Film, Comedy
4 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars
Take sugar, water and lemon juice, mix it up and you’ve got Beirut’s favourite depilatory product, a sticky goo which removes feminine hair, though not without a certain struggle. Such is the eponymous ‘Caramel’ in actor-writer-director Nadine Labaki’s delightful first feature, an ensemble drama that explores the secret world of a Lebanese beauty parlour where the women struggle to make the best of a society which so often limits their options.

Labaki herself plays the thirtysomething daughter from a Christian family, who should of course be off their hands by now – except she’s having a secret affair with a married man. Her Muslim co-workers meanwhile have problems of their own, including a bride desperate to hide the fact that she’s not quite as virginal as her in-laws would like to believe, and a tomboy-ish type whose only apparent outlet for her sexual longings is delivering creamy scalp massage to an obviously colluding female client.

In surroundings of faded would-be glamour, Lebanon’s bloody recent history and religious tensions barely get much of a look-in, since the film prioritises personal intrigues, played out by a largely non-professional cast (the mad old ladies next door are particular treasure) who bring an impeccable authenticity to the proceedings. Labaki’s direction favours an affectionate amble: her screenplay throws up few genuine surprises, yet this is, frankly, a lovely film. Insisting on the bittersweet buzz of tiny female victories in the fraught milieu she describes as ‘my Beirut’, it’s lovingly shaped and deeply felt, a happy-sad charmer which deserves a wide audience.

By: Trevor Johnston



Release details

Release date:
Friday May 16 2008
95 mins

Cast and crew

Nadine Labaki
Nadine Labaki, Rodney El Haddad, Jihad Hojeily
Nadine Labaki
Yasmine Al Masri
Joanna Moukarzel
Gisèle Aouad
You may also like